Posts tagged with "app store"

The Success of Crossy Road and Monument Valley

I'm always interested in learning how the App Store market is working out for indie developers and small studios. Over the last few days, we got a glimpse into the business of iOS games thanks to numbers and stats shared by the developers of two quality titles – Crossy Road and Monument Valley.

Crossy Road implements a freemium model and it has grossed over a million dollars with ads. The developers used video ads in an effective way:

“I played Disco Zoo and thought that video ads were a really good way to earn money without getting into people’s faces. We just needed to figure out a fun reason for players to watch them”. In the game, watching ads earns coins. Players can use coins to buy new characters that hop across the endless dangerous road in new and often hilarious ways. But it’s also possible to simply buy them with real money or just collect coins in the game.

Monument Valley, on the other hand, is an excellent premium game that allows players to download extra levels as additional purchases (the so-called paymium model). In a widely popular post, ustwo shared the numbers behind the game. Most notably:

  • 2.4M official sales, 1.7M of which on iOS
  • 575k upgrades to Forgotten Shores
  • $5.8M in revenue, 81.7% of which on iOS

The numbers, however, also include more specific and interesting stats such as the number of players who completed the game (lower than I expected) and sales by country. I find it illuminating to see the effects of Forgotten Shores and Christmas compared to winning an Apple Design Award or releasing the game on Android.

Crossy Road and Monument Valley are two profoundly different games. Monument Valley had a big budget (for an indie production), a moderately large team, and it reaped well-deserved rewards. Crossy Road uses freemium mechanics with a unique twist, respecting the user's time and commitment to the game. In both cases, they are quality games, and two examples of the multifaceted (and crowded) App Store market.

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“Quietly Doing Just Fine”

Well, I think a lot of us are out there, quietly doing just fine. HoursTracker had its best year ever in 2014, and five years of best ever years before that. If you can solve an important problem in a way that resonates with a sizable group of people, you can find success. There’s always room for a fresh take on an already well-served problem, too.

We often hear about the frustrations of indie developers who are trying to make a living on the App Store, which has essentially become the default narrative for many (I often talk about this topic, too). Carlos Ribas, developer of HoursTracker, has a good article about the opposite scenario and how he managed to turn his app into a profitable business. Well worth a read to get a fresh and different perspective, and a good reminder that there are indie developers who are doing fine after years on the App Store.

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Apple Announces New App Store Numbers and Milestones

With a press release, Apple today announced new App Store numbers and milestones, as well as updated statistics on job creation in the United States and globally.

From the press release:

Apple today announced that the first week of January set a new record for billings from the App Store with customers around the world spending nearly half a billion dollars on apps and in-app purchases, and New Year’s Day 2015 marked the single biggest day ever in App Store sales history. These milestones follow a record-breaking 2014, in which billings rose 50 percent and apps generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers. To date, App Store developers have earned a cumulative $25 billion from the sale of apps and games. The introduction of iOS 8, the most significant iOS update ever, gave developers the ability to create amazing new apps and offers innovative features which proved wildly popular with App Store customers around the world.

In the press release, Apple announced that 1.4 million apps are now available on the App Store, with 725,000 of them made for iPad. Apple estimates that the “iOS ecosystem” has created 627,000 jobs in the US, and, in an updated job creation webpage, they put that number at slightly over a million for jobs “created or supported” by Apple. The same mini-site includes other numbers related to the company's future Campus 2, US-based customer support, and more.

The App Store numbers come at an interesting time for Apple – the company has been criticized for some of its App Store practices over the past few months, but the stats shared today appear to paint a more positive picture in terms of overall growth and health of the market. Below, I've included some tweets by Horace Dediu for further context and analysis.

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App Websites

Joe Cieplinski writes about the importance of having a good website for your app:

Look, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your due diligence with ASO, and that you shouldn’t care at all about getting people to rate your app. If you take a few hours doing some basic research, you can certainly make some improvements to your keywords that could boost your ranking considerably. But how many developers are throwing together what amounts to barely more than a skeleton web page, and then spending little to no time at all trying to drive people to it? I think there’s a lot to be gained by spending some time on this.

More than six years after the launch of the App Store, I find it curious every time I come across an app on the Store and either there's no link to a website or the “website” consists of screenshots from iTunes and an icon. This sounds obvious – having a good app website is important (sometimes absolutely necessary) and I completely agree with Joe's motivations.

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Succeeding in a Mature App Store

Charles Perry has a great response to David Smith's concerns about the App Store being “full” (which I also pondered here):

We need to compete in niches, where there isn’t enough opportunity to justify the attention of large corporate developers. Don’t try to create a new bookkeeping app – Intuit will eat you alive. Instead build a bookkeeping app that’s tailored specifically for veterinarians or, even more narrowly, for large animal veterinarians. Don’t build a general purpose word processor – Microsoft has that space all locked up. Instead, build a word processor that’s specialized for a particular field like academics or screenwriting. Each of these niches offer plenty of revenue opportunities for a single developer. The big players won’t be interested, though. After all, a niche with potential annual revenue of $250,000 might be an amazing opportunity for an indie, but for the big players, $250,000 won’t even cover their engineering costs.

As I often argue, small niches can actually be pretty big on the Internet. Or, at least, big enough to turn a profit.

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Apple’s Holiday (RED) Campaign Raises $20 Million

Dawn Chmielewski, writing at Re/Code, reports that Apple's Apps for RED campaign raised over $20 million to fight AIDS:

The technology giant partnered with software developers who sold apps or exclusive items and donated the proceeds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. The company also donated a portion of sales at its retail and online stores during two of the biggest shopping days of the year — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Apple's campaign was a first for app downloads going to charity, and I'm glad that the company and developers involved managed to raise this amount for a good cause.

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Discovery on the App Store

Gedeon Maheux writes about search on the App Store following a simple experiment: looking at search results for “Twitter”. The outcome is concerning:

The following list was generated by a manual App Store (iPhone) search on Nov 15th, 2014 for the term “Twitter”. To make the list easier to parse, I’ve called out all apps that allow a user to directly read AND post to Twitter in bold. Everything else is either a game, a utility, or some other social network enhancement. The official app from Twitter is naturally the first result, but the next actual Twitter client (Hootsuite) doesn’t appear on the list until #20 and the next one after that comes in at #62. Even the mega-popular Tweetbot isn’t returned in the results until position #81 and even then, the older v2 of Tweetbot (for iOS 6) comes first. Where’s Twitterrific? Although it contains the word “Twitter” in the app’s name, Twitterrific isn’t seen in the list until you scroll all the way down to #100.

App Store search has historically been a black box. The problem isn't necessarily that it's getting worse – rather, it's that it doesn't appear to be getting better. Every day I search for something on the App Store and, inevitably, I come across unrelated social games, apps to boost your Twitter followers or Instagram likes, and clones of other apps instead of more accurate results.

In spite of Apple's efforts to put curated lists of apps front and center, people still search for apps the old fashioned way. A mobile take on SEO has become quite popular, studies suggest this, and, anecdotally, the importance of search – inside and outside of the App Store – can be easily measured.

Apple has plenty of room for improvement in App Store search; in the meantime, the upcoming app analytics should hopefully help developers understand how customers are finding (or not finding) their apps through search.

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“Can the App Store Be Full?”

David Smith, in an excellent episode of Developing Perspective about the hyper-competitive nature of the modern App Store:

It's hard to talk to those people sometimes, because I have the understanding that it's very unlikely that you're going to come up with something that is truly new, or something that will be adopted just on its own merits, on it being novel and it being interesting. If you do, it'll likely be copied very quickly. It's just the nature of the store. If you want to make it in the App Store, it's much more a question of patience, a question of savvy maybe, too. Of being really thoughtful about how you're doing things from a business perspective, on keeping your expenses and your costs really really low. That's one point that I know I've been able to make a living out of this, is that I keep my expenses very low on the development side.

The entire episode is worth listening to (or watching), as David makes some great points about facing the realities of the App Store, which is “full” of free apps and where the majority of customers don't fall in the power-user end of the iOS device owner spectrum.

I started MacStories in April 2009, less than a year after the App Store opened. Over the years, I've tried and written about thousands of apps, generally from indie developers who have an idea and want to make an app out of it. From my experience, it's pretty clear that the people who used to make apps in the early days of the App Store have been forced to adapt to a race to the bottom, increasingly harder ways to monetize productivity apps, and a general saturation of ideas. With so many developers making apps, it's almost inevitable that the same idea will happen in different parts of the world at different price points. By 2008-2010 definitions, the App Store can be seen as “full” and the market is tough and sometimes unfair (also because Apple has been slow in providing better tools for testing apps or measuring analytics).

But, it's important to stress the amount of opportunities that new developers starting out today have to make a meaningful impact on the App Store. New ways to monetize, new technologies, new types of customers that are more diversified than five or four years ago. Apps like Workflow, Overcast, Newsify, Elevate, Clips – these, I think, are good examples of the kinds of businesses that can be explored on the App Store today.

By certain metrics, the App Store is less fun because apps are harder to discover, free apps with inferior designs and feature sets tend to dominate, and many developers haven't been able to adapt to new trends, rules, or limitations. And I'm especially sad when I hear the stories of developers whose livelihoods have been complicated by rip-offs, questionable App Store rejections, or piracy. That, unfortunately, is the consequence of a vast and popular marketplace where anyone can make anything within a few guidelines. Everyone is fighting for customers and survival.

Realistically, though, the App Store isn't “full” if you can adapt to its nature in 2014. New ideas are still possible and new apps will be invented to solve new problems for new customers. The App Store is denser, noisier, and more unforgiving than before; developing successful apps – even only by the sheer amount of functionality in iOS – requires more patience and scrupulousness than four years ago. And creating novel apps that are also successful is incredibly challenging and time-consuming. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to this other than advising against relying on luck alone.

The App Store is full of opportunities, but it's a lot of hard work – more than ever.


Apple Posts “Best of 2014″ App Store and iTunes Store Lists

Apple has today published their "Best of 2014" iTunes and App Store lists, which include editorial picks for the best releases in apps, music, movies, TV shows, books and podcasts from 2014.

For the best apps and games, Apple has picked Elevate and Threes for the iPhone, Pixelmator and Monument Valley for the iPad and Notability and Tomb Raider for the Mac. Runners up were Hyperlapse and Leo's Fortune for iPhone, Storehouse and Hearthstone for iPad and Affinity Designer and Transistor for Mac.

Some of the winners in the other categories include 1989 by Taylor Swift as the best music album, Guardians of the Galaxy as the best blockbuster movie, Fargo as TV show of the year, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr as the best fiction book, and Serial as the best new podcast. Although keep in mind that some of these lists vary from country to country.

Last year, Apple picked Wunderlist and XCOM: Enemy Unknown as winners for the Mac; Disney Animated and BADLAND for the iPad; and Duolingo and Ridiculous Fishing for the iPhone. In 2012, Apple picked Day One and Deus Ex: Human Revolution as winners for the Mac; Paper and The Room for the iPad; and Action Movie FX and Rayman Jungle Run for the iPhone.

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